Nonprofit news roundup for March 28, 2008

Market-driven social innovation questioned

The “philanthrocapitalism” of Bill Gates and Bono legitimizes growing inequality, hurts democracy, tries to quantify the unquantifiable, crowds out civil society, and is often more marketing than altruism, Peter Wilby said in a column in The New Statesman March 19. In a separate column at March 26, Michael Edwards said he worries the hype will divert attention from deeper social reforms and reduce decision-making to a bottom line that ignores significant costs and tradeoffs.

Harvard names Jane Mendillo investment head

Harvard University has named Jane Mendillo head of its $34.9 billion endowment, Bloomberg News reported March 27. Mendillo, investment chief at Wellesley College, previously was vice president of external investments at Harvard and holds two degrees from Yale.

Maine giving on the rise

Giving is on the rise in Maine, where donations by individuals have grown seven-fold to $482 million in the past two decades, The Portland Press Herald reported March 26. Both total and average giving have increased by 25 percent in the last five years and 18 of the state’s 20 largest foundations were founded in the last 25 years.

What makes a great nonprofit?

What makes a nonprofit great is not a business mentality, but discipline and a “legislative skill set,” Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t,” said in an interview with MSNBC on March 20. Even great nonprofits might have to deal with inexperienced but impassioned staff and might not have metrics for everything, but they can control their “key seats,” be rigorous about results, and have the guts to say “no thank you,” says Collins.

South Africa is a nation of givers

New research shows nearly 92 percent of South Africans give to charity monthly and the poor tend to be better givers, The Sunday Times reported March 23. No racial group was shown to be more philanthropic than any other, debunking criticism of what some South Africans perceive as a lack of empathy for the poor among rich black entrepreneurs.

Government support critical to developing-world universities

Lack of government support and direction is a major reason why universities in developing countries lag behind their developed-world peers, Kimani wa Njuguna said in a letter in the Daily Nation March 22. Though Kenya is an African economic hub, its universities attract few foreign students because they have been left to chart the course of their own programs, which are neither unique nor specialized.

Freedom of information integral to CSR

Freedom of information is an integral part of corporate social responsibility in Latin America, José Luis López Follegati of Peruvian nonprofit Labor said in an interview with Latinamerica Press March 26. Corporate social responsibility has not been embraced by the majority of Latin American companies, but a number of corporate alliances and foundations are pushing for greater awareness across the region.

Mich. charity tied to Saddam-financed trip for U.S. lawmakers

A Michigan charity official has been accused of arranging a trip to Iraq for three U.S. lawmakers financed by Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agency, The Associated Press reported March 27. Muthanna Al-Hanooti was public relations coordinator for Life for Relief and Development, a charity formed after the Gulf War to fund humanitarian work in Iraq; FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force officials raided the charity’s headquarters in 2006, but made no charges.

Mitte Foundation president arrested on cocaine possession

Scott Mitte, president of the board of the Roy F. and Joann Cole Mitte Foundation, has been charged with cocaine possession, Joshunda Sanders said in a blog at the Austin Statesman March 26. Mitte reportedly spent extravagantly as president of the fund, which discontinued several scholarships earlier this year when it ran out of money, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported March 6 [subscription only].

Pa. trade school gets $45M

A Pennsylvania trade school will get $45 million from two philanthropic Philadelphia couples, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported March 25. The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades offers students a free three-year degree in skills like carpentry, masonry, power plant technology.

EU helps China cripple Dalai Lama’s charity

The European Union has crippled a British development charity working in Tibet and India under the patronage of the Dalai Lama, The Guardian reported March 16. In the months after China and Europe became “strategic partners,” the Commission has demanded repayment of nearly 2 million British pounds, nearly $4 million, in grants and 75,000 British pounds, or $150,000, in legal costs from ApTibet.

Albania faces human trafficking epidemic

The Albanian government has taken some measures to reduce human trafficking within its borders, but nonprofits say these efforts are not enough, The Financial Times reported March 27. Albania, which may have as many as 30,000 women victims of trafficking schemes, is rated by the U.S. government as a “Tier 2” country, still not fully compliant with minimum standards for eliminating trafficking.

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